It’s time for teen girls to recycle their back issues of Bop magazine and pack away the posters of the Backstreet Boys, ‘NSYNC and O-Town that previously lined their bedroom walls. Gone are the matching, flashy jumpsuits; choreographed dance moves and harmless lyrics characteristic of the last generation of boy bands – say hello to the new age of “boy band”: vintage rock T-shirts, jet-black hair and pale-skinned singers.
They integrate an overabundance of profanities into everyday conversation, embrace collective non-conformity and pride themselves on being dysfunctional. They expertly apply pasty white foundation and black eyeliner, and have even managed to bring back the Mohawk.
They take on names like Simple Plan, Good Charlotte, My Chemical Romance, Sum 41, Dashboard Confessional and New Found Glory. You’ve heard them on the radio, seen their music videos and have unknowingly found yourself tapping your foot to one of their breakout singles – they’ve penetrated the music industry and are showing no signs of fading.
It was only a few short years ago that yesterday’s boy bands ruled all facets of pop culture. The innocuous serenades of four- and five-member ensembles proved as popular among teenyboppers as Phish is to dreadlock tie-dyers who spend their summers following the band’s tour from city to city. ‘NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees, not to mention acronym-friendly B2K, O-Town and LFO, not only ruled the airwaves and consistently secured their position on the weekly Billboard Top 40, but also left teenage girls screaming and swooning at sold-out concert venues across the country. The mere thought of locking eyes with Justin Timberlake or Nick Carter’s sweat ricocheting a face in the crowd was enough to bring pre-pubescent schoolgirls one step closer to cardiac arrest.
It’s no wonder the music industry took advantage of what would have otherwise been an unprofitable portion of the market. It only made sense to market boy band personalities to hormone-crazed, soon-to-be-adolescents. Pre-teen girls could fixate on an unattainable “musician” with a Y-chromosome, sweet face, perfect teeth and the ability to “keep it real” by breaking it down with a few dance moves.
But times change. Beats become dated, choreographed dance moves become stale and teenyboppers who once pined for melodious boy-next-door groups mature. Former boy band aficionados denounce the cheesy song lyrics and vocal chord resonations of cookie-cutter groups that once topped the charts. It’s been years since any one of a multitude of pop group deities graced the presence of the “TRL” studio, appeared as a musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” or received any sort of publicity.
As ex-Backstreet Boys and ‘NSYNC enthusiasts quickly moved further from the sugary pop sounds of their youth and their boy band paraphernalia continued to depreciate in value, record labels were faced with no choice but to circumvent plummeting profits by introducing a new wave of bands intended to rouse record sales among an aging teen generation.
It doesn’t take a music industry tycoon or rock journalist for Rolling Stone to understand the logic behind the recent saturation of the airwaves by “edgy” pop-punk bands into mainstream music. As kids move into their teen years, they typically rebel against anything shoved down their throat, especially when it comes to music. Think back to your late middle school and early high school years; as you neared adolescence, you probably noticed that your parents condoned your listening to inoffensive pop-rock (I’ll openly admit that I purchased the Hanson album featuring the single “Mmmm Bop”). However, once I realized that my mom enjoyed the tune as much, if not more, than I did, I threw the CD in the trash and started listening to Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Most teens do the same; they seek out freakier bands that fail to receive their parents’ seal of approval.
So it only makes sense that aging teen girls would eventually grow weary of cliché all-male pop posses and go off in search of edgier groups who claim to understand the drama and perils of adolescence. Hey, Simple Plan knows what it’s like “to be hurt, to be lost, to be left out in the dark.” What better way to entice rebelling teenage girls to buy records, than by marketing pop-punk, all-boy bands who boast rebellion, in a conformist sort of way, and have likely invested more money in Hot Topic than the retail chain’s primary stockholders?
However, not since the late-‘90s onslaught of sweet-voiced, kid-next-door ensembles have the rock gods deemed this pathetic attempt by bands to achieve “punk” status sacrilegious. You’ve heard of the seven deadly sins. In my opinion, production of crap punk-rock is the often overlooked, and commonly forgotten, eighth deadly sin. Needless to say, the majority of the pop-punk bands that have inundated the music market are guilty of this cardinal offense.
Not surprisingly, the Internet is chock full of blogs where die-hard pop-punk teens spew their thoughts about these bands being nothing short of musical geniuses. However, it’s obvious to most of us that the Good Charlottes, My Chemical Romances and Simple Plans of the music industry are far from musically innovative and certainly cannot have their share in category-holding legends such as The Ramones; The Clash and, to a lesser extent, Green Day.
These groups are simply recycled versions of the last generation of boy bands and they’re filling a niche in the music industry. It’s become cool to avoid what is conventional in music in search for something different, until of course, what’s “different” becomes conventional. But the formula is the same – there’s a guy in a band a girl can fixate on. Whether it’s former ‘NSYNC member Justin Timberlake, 98 Degrees heartthrob Nick Lachey or Good Charlotte brothers Benji and Joel – it’s always some baby face white guy in his late teens-early 20s.
It’s likely that the current alternative to last decade’s boy bands is here to stay. And the question remains, will the cycle of boy bands ever end?
In the words of Lou Pearlman, the evil marketing mind behind the Backstreet Boys, ‘NSYNC and O-Town (I’m sure he was sitting in a La-Z-Boy, stroking his malevolent cat when he made this statement), “I know exactly when boy bands will be over: When God stops making little girls.”

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